Haunted house reports on the rise during pandemic, says paranormal researcher
John E.L. Tenney says more people are at home and taking notice of their environment
The new normal is bringing out the paranormal, says John E.L. Tenney.
Tenney, a paranormal researcher and former host of TV's Ghost Stalkers, says he used to receive two to five calls a month from people convinced their homes are haunted.
But since the COVID-19 restrictions started, he says he gets five to 10 calls a week.
The New York Times also noticed the uptick. The newspaper interviewed Tenney this week for a feature about the many people around the U.S. who are stuck at home with what they believe are roommates from beyond the grave.
"There is no scientific evidence for the existence of ghosts," the newspaper helpfully notes.
Tenney spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about what's got people so spooked. Here is part of their conversation.
What kind of stories are you getting?
Everything from typical knocks and footsteps in the hallway, to some very new, strange occurrences, like people hearing whispered voices through their television sets or getting text messages from long deceased friends and relatives.
And what do you make of this?
If we're going to allow or believe that ghosts exist, then people are seeing an uptick of ghosts.
They're in a heightened emotional state. They've been sequestered. They're spending time in their house, which they normally don't do at certain hours.
Most people are gone at work and so they're not used to hearing the pops and creaks in their house normally. But if there are ghosts, perhaps they've had a ghost in their house all along and they've just never noticed that.
Perhaps the ghosts are getting bored too.- John E.L. Tenney, paranormal researcher
Is it possible that the ghosts themselves are getting more active, given that these people are at home all day long?
If ghosts are the way that we traditionally think about them, which is, you know, were once people, then perhaps the ghosts are getting bored too, and they're making themselves a little more known to the people that they're not commonly used to seeing at all hours of the day and night.
Maybe they don't want that company. I mean, some of the reports that I was seeing in this New York Times article, this sounds quite annoying — like little petty things of doors slamming and towels on the floor and rattling the shades and things. I mean, maybe it's a message that they just want to be left alone in these houses.
As human beings, we have difficulty communicating and discerning the motives of other living human beings that are right in front of us. So for us to try and divine what the intention is of an ethereal, invisible being that we can't really see?
They might just be trying to get attention, and they're doing it the only way they know how, which is slamming a door or pulling a window shade or slamming a window.
Is it possible … that people, being confined and seeing no one, are just going a little nuts?
I tell people to kind of take copious notes, journal about it, keep track of when it happens, because the majority of cases that I investigated over the past 30 years have had a natural solution to them.
There might be something happening in your house, whether it be your furnace turning on or a truck driving down the street every day at the same time, that you never noticed before. But once you start to take notes, you'll notice that it's a repeating pattern or something that's very familiar.
How often do you actually … find something that's there?
I've investigated thousands of cases and there are probably maybe less than a hundred where something really unique and strange is happening.
What was the strangest?
I've been in a situation where I was in a room with 13 people and we had the lights off and this room was allegedly haunted. And so we were sitting in the dark and everybody was saying their name, kind of introducing themselves to the ghost, for lack of a better word.
And one woman in the corner refused to say her name. And that's fine, but when I asked if she could say where she was from, she didn't respond.
So I turned the light on, and that's when everybody in the room realized that that woman that we had all thought was with us had never been there. There was an empty spot where we thought she had been sitting.
Do you ever get the genuine kind of Ghostbusters ghosts, like kind of free-floating things [that go] "woooo!" — kind of spooky with vaporous tails to them and stuff like that? Do they exist?
I have had, you know, situations where I've seen strange coloured mist floating around a room or through a cemetery.
But sometimes it's almost so typical that it's hard to believe you're looking at something that's cloaked with a skeleton-like face. Your mind just says, "Oh, that's gotta be something from a movie. It's got to be something I'm imagining.
When you have an experience where someone says, "Oh, I'm seeing a very spooky movie-like ghost" ... you have to wonder how much their mind is playing into how they perceive their reality.
So that brings us back to this quarantine thing. I haven't heard anyone say that they've experienced something paranormal, but lots of people saying that since they've been locked in lockdown, they're having a lot of ... strange dreams. So [is] a lot of this in the imagination, do you think?
I saw a spike like this before, right at the Y2K in 1999. There was another minor spike around 9/11.
Times of stress really do something to human psychology, and so you see people having deeper, stranger dreams. You have people reporting a higher amount of ghosts in their house or haunted houses.
I have even had an increase in UFO reports since the quarantine. And that might just be because people, you know, go outside and look up at the sky and have time to reflect.
It doesn't mean so much that they're going crazy, but perhaps they're just becoming a little more introverted and perhaps getting to know themselves a little better.
Would you tell people to be receptive to these experiences?
I would. I think that our world is so strange, you should have as many weird experiences as possible. I also think that once you open yourself up to a weird experience, you start to have more of them.
The majority of cases that I've ever investigated, people don't get hurt. It's not scary. It's startling, but it's not scary. If someone does get hurt, it's because they are startled and fall off of a ladder or run down the steps and trip on their own feet.
But I think that if ghosts are here, they're a part of our environment and we should get to know them.
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by John McGill.